After being selected with the 14th overall in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder, Cameron Payne’s career began to look less promising as the years went on. Going from viral clips alongside former teammate Russell Westbrook to being on his third team in as many seasons, to say the former Murray State standout was having a rough go as a pro would be an understatement.
In fact, just last season, he spent time playing in both China and the G League.
Heading into the Orlando bubble last year, as the NBA season returned from it’s four-month hiatus, Payne was signed by the Phoenix Suns and, since then, his career has completely turned around.
Earning more of a role with each game he played, he helped Phoenix go undefeated (8-0) in the bubble in 2019-20 and clinch the second-seed in the notoriously tough Western Conference this season.
With the Suns 69-23 since signing Payne, it would be easy to point to the arrival of Chris Paul, the sustained dominance of Devin Booker, or the growth of Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton as the major catalysts for Phoenix’s success and rightly so.
However, per Basketball Reference, Payne has averaged 9.1 points and 4.0 assists per game on a true shooting percentage of .615 in wins this season after averaging 10.9 points and 3.0 assists per game on a true shooting percentage of .612 in the bubble.
Suffice it to say, Payne’s contributions aren’t to be ignored.
Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals proved that as much as any contests as, filling in for Paul, the 26-year-old propelled Phoenix to victory with 29 points and 9 assists.
Following the game, Clippers head coach Ty Lue acknowledged that the team had “no answer” for Payne, who led his team in scoring.
“I think Cameron Payne’s speed is really hurting us,” said Lue.
It’s always great to see a comeback story.